Cheryl Mills’ handling of a now-forgotten email scandal that unfolded during the Bill Clinton White House era was “loathsome” and “totally inadequate,” a federal judge wrote in a scathing opinion in a 2008 lawsuit.
Mills’ involvement in a previous Clinton email scandal — and her alleged stonewalling and foot-dragging in response to questions about it — has taken on new significance in light of her recent deposition in a lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch.
A transcript of that five-hour proceeding, which was released on Tuesday, shows Mills, who served as Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff, refusing to answer key questions about Hillary Clinton’s private email system.
Beth Wilkinson, Mills’ lawyer, also told Mills not to answer questions about her faulty handling of a December 2012 Freedom of Information Act request for information about Clinton’s email account.
At that time Clinton’s use of a personal email account was not widely known outside of the Obama administration. But when Mills was notified about the FOIA request, which was filed by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, she failed to provide a response with information about Clinton’s email account.
Had she done so, the public may have been made aware of Clinton’s unorthodox email practices two years before the information eventually became public.
The State Department denied the FOIA request in May 2013 saying it had no responsive information.
But in a report released in January, the State Department’s inspector general called Mills’ handling of that FOIA request “inaccurate” and “incomplete.”
But those adjectives are mild compared to the words U.S. District Court judge Royce Lamberth used to describe Mills in an April 2008 court ruling in a separate case filed by Judicial Watch.
The watchdog had filed a lawsuit in the late-1990s for records pertaining to another Clinton White House scandal when it discovered that more than 1.8 million emails sent among White House officials had gone missing.
Judicial Watch was representing a woman named Betty Lambuth in the case. A computer contractor for Northrop Grumman, Lambuth had stumbled across a massive batch of hidden emails from White House officials who had been subpoenaed in various cases involving Clinton White House scandals.
But Lambuth says she was ordered by high-level White House officials not to talk about the missing emails. She said that she was threatened with termination or jail time if she did.
The White House claimed that an email server that was intended to archive the emails had malfunctioned.
As Bill Clinton’s deputy chief counsel, Mills was among the group of White House officials who was told in June 1998 about the missing records. She claimed during a deposition that she was made aware of the issue but thought that someone else was handling the matter.
Lamberth did not determine that Mills obstructed justice or provided false information about the missing emails. But he did characterize her response to the issue as “totally inadequate.” He also said that her and chief counsel Bruce Lindsay’s behavior during the matter was “loathsome.”
“Mills’ totally inadequate performance of duty directly led to all the adverse criticism the White House suffered in this document production fiasco,” Lamberth wrote.
“(Mills) failed miserably in her follow-up,” he added.
“Mills’ actions were totally inadequate to address the problem,” Lamberth continued.
“While the Court finds the actions of both (White House counsel Bruce] Lindsay and Mills to be loathsome, there is simply no evidence that they were motivated by an intent to engage in a conspiracy or to obstruct justice.”
Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton has previously highlighted Mills’ involvement in that scandal. In 2009, when Mills’ hiring as Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff was announced, Fitton pointed to Lamberth’s ruling as evidence that she should not be allowed to hold the position.
In June 2013, Fitton characterized Mills as a “cover-up expert,” citing her involvement in the previous White House scandal as well as her help in improperly releasing records about Kathleen Willey, one of the women who has accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault. (RELATED: Cheryl Mills, Clinton Cover-Up Artist, Strikes Again)
During last Friday’s deposition related to the Hillary Clinton email server scandal, Mills was asked about her involvement in the previous email case. As was characteristic of her testimony, she claimed not to remember much about the ordeal.
“So I don’t remember the mail to server. I’m quite confident I should start with I had to provide a lot of different testimony during the time period when I served in the government. I’m happy to have my memory refreshed, if there’s something that could do that,” she told Judicial Watch’s lawyers.
Mills, who now serves as a member of Hillary Clinton’s team of lawyers, also said that she has not read Lamberth’s opinion in which he called her “loathsome.”
“And, you know, I can’t speak to both his observations or the set of facts in that regard, because I think I would need to — to do that well, I’ve always tried my best to be responsive and tried my best to do the best that I could. And I think I get up each day trying to do that. I’m not perfect and would never say I was. But I certainly do my best.”